Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two Years After Teacher Nicole Dufault's Arrest, Case Still Has Not Gone to Trial

Above: Police investigate at Columbia High School after Nicole Dufault's arrest

Maplewood, New Jersey: Two years after a local high school teacher was arrested, the case has still not gone to trial.

Essex County Place broke the news two years ago today that Columbia High School teacher Nicole Dufault, of Caldwell, was charged with sexually assaulting three 15-year-old students on the property of the Maplewood campus in 2013 and 2014. Since then, Dufault was charged with the alleged sexual assaults of three more students both on and off campus, and is currently facing more than 40 counts. She was indicted in February of 2015.

Dufault's shared classroom, B238, was searched by investigators and was closed off to students following her arrest. A sign posted on the door declared the room to be "unusable". The classroom, located along Academy Street next to an underutilized stairwell, is now being used by other teachers.

The day following Dufault's arrest, Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron announced to students that the school would be "in the news" for a few months. Dufault was released on $500,000 bail from the Essex County Correctional Facility less than two months after charges were filed.

When she was employed, Dufault told students due to an alleged illness that she faced, doctors recommended that she move to Arizona so that she would not be impactedHer attorney, Timothy Smith, stated last year that frontal lobe syndrome "has rendered her defenseless to over-aggressive behavior, and that is exactly what she was exposed to". Dufault was reportedly diagnosed with the syndrome after undergoing brain surgery at a local hospital. 

Dufault taught students in 9th and 10th grades during the school year, and was part of the summer 'Bridge to Success' program. She would frequently discuss the alleged disease in class, and would allow students to follow her Instagram account. The account has since been deleted.

At her arraignment in April, 2015, Smith stated that Dufault would apply for pre-trial intervention, and Gina Iosim of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office said that a deal that would include a 15-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea would be offered.

In the time since, Dufault's former supervisor, Janine Gregory, has left the South Orange Maplewood School District, and is now the English supervisor for the North Plainfield School District in Somerset County. Gregory told Essex County Place in 2015 that she "can't participate in any interviews".

Similar cases in Northern New Jersey have ended in far less time. A former West Orange High School teacher charged with sexual assault pleaded guilty less than a year after being charged, and a former West Morris Mendham High School teacher, who was also represented by Smith, pleaded guilty 14 months after being charged.

Above: B238, Nicole Dufault's classroom

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